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Some thoughts on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

If you’re interested in yoga philosophy, a good place to start learning about its ancient origins is a text known as the Yoga Sutras, written more than 2000 years ago by the sage Patanjali. The Sutras give you an insightful understanding of human consciousness and our relationship with the cosmos, combined with techniques for gaining control over your consciousness (largely through meditation). In this way the Sutras combine psychology, philosophy and practical techniques that help to reduce human suffering and improve quality of life. Today this ancient text remains an important summary of yoga principles, and it’s often included in yoga teacher training courses. One of the most interesting

Yoga and the natural world: Part 2

India’s philosophical traditions include an ethical framework based on the concept of Rta, which was formulated more than 5000 years ago in ancient texts known as the Vedas. Translated as “the right way”, Rta is often interpreted as “the cosmic order”. It conveys the idea of aligning oneself with the laws of nature – its cycles, patterns of growth and other universal principles. Around the beginning of the Common Era texts were written in India to convey how one should behave in order to uphold and harmoniously align with Rta. They are centred on the notion of dharma, a Sanskrit word expressing the need to fulfil one’s duty in life – to act altruistically for the good of all. The verbal root

Yoga and the natural world: Part 1

Yoga was traditionally practised in the forests of India, under the shade of trees that were revered as symbols of tolerance and protection. Here the sages of ancient times taught their students, who absorbed not only their teacher’s words but also the peace and beauty of their environment. So the natural world is very much at the heart of yoga’s ancient roots. We can see this in the asanas named after animals that the yogis sought to imitate – the Cat, Cobra and Downward Facing Dog, for example – as well as plant-inspired postures such as the Lotus and the Tree that offer lessons in poise, stability and grace. Even insects and birds were sometimes the source of useful guidance, as seen in t